In the beginning chapter of the classic book, Living by the Book by Howard G. Hendricks, he states that shortly after he became a believer someone wrote on the flyleaf of his Bible,"This book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book." Hendricks included this timeless truism to motivate and warn the reader that studying the Bible is an irreplaceable spiritual discipline. The real question is "How are we doing in this critical spiritual discipline?" Honest self-examination is important if there is any hope of long-term progress in any endeavor. Paul states repeatedly (1 Cor 11:28, 2 Cor 13:5, Gal 6:4) that we are to examine ourselves all with the goal in mind to make sure that we are living out the Christian faith properly. On a larger scale, have you ever wondered how the "Church" (in a national sense) is impacting our culture?
There are no real mechanisms for examining ourselves on a grand scale but when you look at the state of the church in terms of impacting our culture - there is not a lot of room for optimism. Perhaps, Paul intentionally did not make that exhortation for the "Church" because he knew it was impossible, nor was it the objective to achieve things on a national scale, like Israel, but now evaluation was to be a personal responsibility. However, if we do a look at the impact of the "Church" on a larger scale, it is a fairly good reflection of the state of genuine individual growth.
Recently, the Center for Bible Engagement has completed a series of studies to discover: 1) why there is no discernable difference between people who call themselves believers and others who do not and 2) why the "church" does not have a bigger impact on our culture and society. The study has done all believers great service and provides us with a tremendous "Self-Assessment of individual believers and the Church." The results provide a very accurate snapshot of the lives of individual believers and the capacity that they have to impact our culture. This brief article will attempt to give the reader an analysis of the study and touch on a few recommendations.
The surveys included 40,000 respondents from across the USA between the ages of 13 and 80 years of age. Men and women responded to produce an honest "snap shot" picture of the modern day believer. All affirm to be "Christ Followers" who practice at least some of the following habits; regular church attendance, volunteer at church, participate or lead small groups but most "lose the day" spiritually in terms of their thought life and often moral behavior. In fact, less than 1% of the respondents stated that these traditional methodologies were effective tools for true spiritual growth on a daily basis. The study revealed that most people struggle with: a) drunkenness or getting high, b) sex outside marriage, c) viewing pornography, d) gambling, e) thinking violent thoughts towards themselves or others and f) other assorted sinful practices. Tragically, people had little if any hope of "winning the day" and overcoming sinful patterns while relying on traditional methods of spiritual growth (church attendance, small groups, volunteering, wholesome reading). Odds are they will yield to temptation. Tragically, this is also reflected in the divorce rate within the church as it is essentially the same as the national average.
What is encouraging is that from this group 98.7% saw the Bible as being relevant to everyday life and 99.4% stated that they believe that the Bible was the "inspired Word of God." Tragically, 65.1% of these people who claimed to be Christ followers stated that they had "no time" to read the Bible. As believers, it is easy to fall into patterns of knowing about the Bible but not executing a strategic plan to allow it to impact usdaily. So while they believed properly, their inability or unwillingness to read the Bible regularly demonstrated that they had little capacity to resist temptation.
Timeless Solutions for Modern Challenges
The primary factor in resisting temptation was a commitment to regular Bible engagement. Specifically, Christ followers had little if any hope of living a victorious Christian life if they did not practice a minimum of 4 personal Bible engagements per week. The study demonstrated that people who have 3 or less engagements per week have significantly higher rate of succumbing to temptation. The "power of four" Bible
engagements per week is what proved to be the major difference in enabling the Christ follower to resist falling into sin. A Bible engagement is considered to be a personal time alone reading or listening to God's Word. So the #1 reason why modern day believers look like the rest of the world is because they do not allow God to work through them by reading scripture. They may believe correctly, read all sorts of resources, and attend groups, but if they are not influenced by the Bible daily, they are at great risk.
Self Assessment - What Kind of Believer are You?
Those completing the study discovered that there were two basic kinds of Christ followers. Those who were 4x plus Bible engagers per week were referred to as "Relational Christ Followers" and those who were 0-3 times engagers were referred to as "Notional Christ-Followers." They take great effort to explain the differences between the two and they are noteworthy and significant. The real question is that each of us must ask ourselves is "Who and what is influencing me?"Because if it is not the power of God's Word it is more than likely the influences of the world. We must then ask ourselves - What kind of believer do I want to be? You really have only two possibilities.... A Relational Follower or a Notional Follower! Examine yourself and be honest with yourself and strive to be the person God has called each of us to become.... a growing relational Christ follower!